HOW TO INTRODUCE HORSES TO EACH OTHER - They need friends too

MAKING FRIENDS
- Step by step guide to introducing your horse to another horse


If someone has ever invaded your personal space uninvited, then you will know just how your horse feels when you turn him out with a field companion he has never met before. Turning your horse out in a different field may be easy for you, but meeting a new feild companion can be a traumatic experience for your horse.

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TIPS
  • Horses have a strong need for companionship and most will accept each other if they are given enough time to establish their relationship.
  • Horses’ who have had little social interaction, including those that have been stable for long periods of their lives, will take longer to be accepted as they aren’t familiar with the body language of other horses’
  • Leave the existing horse in the feildH you propose to introduce the second horse too, moving him will only make him unsettled and nervous and less acceptance of the process.
  • Make sure if you are introducing a mare that she is not in season, she is less sensitive when out of season. A mare with a foal at foot will not readily accept a strange horse.

STEP BY STEP - INTRODUCING YOUR HORSE TO ANOTHER HORSE

1.Make sure the field you are introducing the second horse in to is large enough to give both horses space to gallop around, but also to get out of each others way if need be. The field must be safe with no obstacles, poor fencing or rabbit holes. Allow the two horses to see each other and communicate visually, turn the second horse out in an adjacent field, take off the head collar and leave the field – remember striking out with the forelimb is a normal reaction and part of the greeting ritual, but can be dangerous to you so you are safer out of the way.

2.Both horses will naturally be curious and approach the fence, each will ask each other for permission to invade each others space, they will do this  by approaching and retreating several times, once at the fence they will make contact by sniffing each other, nostril to nostril. They will normally position themselves at an angle for protection should either horse strike out.

3.Within minutes both horses will sniff each other around the head and neck. Their bodies will be quite tense as they flick their ears, arch their necks and flare their nostrils whilst making vocal expressions, blowing, snorting, which is both welcome and warning.

4.Over the next day or two keep a close eye on how much time they spend together whilst grazing in their separate fields. You should witness them nuzzling each other regularly and if all is going really well they might even be grooming each other over the fence. This is an important step as it means each horses has accepted the other into his personal space. They may even attempt to play with each other by running up and down the fence line together.

5.Once the horses have accepted each others company you can turn them out in the existing horse’s field, catch the existing horse and hold him well away from the gate, lead the new horse in and release both horses at the same time, leave the field immediately as both horses are likely to canter around.

6.Don’t worry if one horse chases or uses driving behaviour towards the other- they are just establishing their relationship, this may continue for a couple of hours or even a few days. However if the horses don’t settle down after a couple of days and one gets  increasingly aggressive, whilst the other is trying to avoid him, then the horse showing aggression has rejected the other. If this happens go back to the first step and try again, allowing more time for each step.

7.Once the horses are together in the field, try not to separate them for long periods of time until they are displaying pair bond behaviour (Read about bond behaviour) – This may take anything from a day to a month.

Read more horse behaviour articles


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